Copyright
Robert Flint.

Socialism online

. (page 31 of 38)
Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 31 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


* In an article on "The Right to Labour," published in the May and
June numbers of The Free Beview, Mr. J. T, Blanchard makes a praise-
worthy attempt to show under what conditions the right to labour can be
made effective in the Socialistic regime. He regards them as these three :

(1) The (jrowing utilisation of all the forces of nature, including land;

(2) A wise regulation of the birth-rate; and

(3) A icidening of markets, an increase in the demand for goods.

As to (i), Mr. Blanchard has forgotten to deal with the arguments of
those who contend that under a regime which would suppress individual
initiative and enterprise, and dispense with motives to personal exertion
to the extent that Collectivism inevitably must, the utilisation of the forces
of nature would proceed more slowly than now. This is a large and serious
omission.

As to (2), most Socialists will probably be surprised and disappointed to
hear that any regulation of the birth-rate will be needed in the Collectivist
era. What surprises and disappoints me is that Mr, Blanchard should not
have told us what be means by "a wise regulation of the birth-rate," Can
any other regulation of it be wise than such as may be effected through so
moralising men and women that they will be habitually self-restraining,
prudent, and right-minded ? If Mr. Blanchard means by " wise regulation"
what some of his collaborateurs — what the members of the Malthusian
League and many Socialists — mean by it, it is what would lead to the
most shocking demoralisation of the labouring classes. Like Mr. Blanchard,
I accept every essential proposition contained in the theory of Malthas.
But Malthus would have disowned with horror the Malthusian League.

As to (3), Mr. Blanchard does not seem to realise that consumption is
conditioned and limited by production ; that markets cannot be widened
ad libitum; that an effective demand for goods is one which implies
possession of the means of paying for them. Failure to perceive this
elementary truth is often apparent in the writings and reasonings of
Socialists.



41 6 SOCIALISM

provided with labour by the labour and at the
expense of others is of an entirely difierent character,
and manifestly unjust.*

(3) The right of the labourer to the whole
produce of his labour. This alleged right had been
announced and advocated more than half a century
before Marx undertook its defence. Among those
who preceded him were William Godwin, Charles
Hall, William Thompson, Enfantin and Proudhon.t

According to these precursors of Marx, what the
labourer is naturally entitled to receive in return
for his labours is the entire use of all the things
which he actually produces by it ; and what
prevents him from obtaining his due, the whole
fruit of his labour, and comjDels him to accept
instead, under the name of wages, a mere fraction
thereof, is the power which wealth gives its
possessors to take advantage of those who are in
poverty. Hence they regarded rent, interest, profits,
and, in a word, all the components of the wealth

* The most important book ou the right to labour is : — " Le Droit au
Travail k I'Assemblce Nationale, recneil complet de tons les discours
prononces dans cette memorable discussion par MM. Fresneau, Hubert
Delisle, Levet, Cazales, Lamartine, Gaultier de Eumilly, Pellotier, A. de
Toqueville, Ledru-Rollin, Duvergier de Hauranne, Cremieux, Barthe,
Gaslonde, De Luppe, Arnaud (de I'Arridge), Thiers, Considerant, Bouhier
de I'Ecluse, Martin-Bernard, Billault, Dufaure, Glais-Bizoin, Goudchaux,
Lagrange, Felix Pyat et Mariusi Andre (textes revus par les Orateurc"',
suivis de I'opinion de MM. Marrast, Proudhon, L. Blanc, Ed. Laboulaye et
Cormenin ; avec des observations inedites par MM. Leon Faucher, Wolowski,
Fred. Bastiat, de Parien, et une introduction et des notes par M. Joseph
Garnier. Paris, chez Guillaumin et Cie. 1848."

t The history of the claim put forth on behalf of labour to a right to
the full product has been carefully traced by Professor Anton Menger —
"Das Kecht auf den voUen Arbeitsertrag in geschichtlicher Darstellung."
1891.



SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 417

of the rich, as appropriations of the products of
the unpaid labour of the poor.

Marx accepted this doctrine, argued very ela-
borately and ingeniously in its support, and had
extraordinary success in persuading certain classes
of persons to believe that he had proved it. Such
was his relationship to it. He did not originate it.
And, as has been shown in former chapters, he did
not really prove it. There is no likelihood that it
ever will be proved.

The right in question has never been recognised
in practice. The " state of nature " to which some
would trace it back, is itself a myth. Where social
bonds are weak and loose, as among many rude
peoples, right is largely confounded with force,
and the prevalent rule of distributing wealth is

"the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can."

Where social bonds are strong and firm, where the
princij^le of liberty or individuality is feeble in
comparison with that of authority or of society,
and the man is merged in the family, clan, city,
or nation, the produce of the labour of all the
members of the community is regarded as belong-
ing to its head, to the patriarch, chief, or king.
The rights of labour are more fully acknowledged
at the present day than they have been in any
previous period of the world's history. But no-
where even now do labourers of any class receive
In return for their labour all that it produces.

2D



41 8 SOCIALISM

Ought they to receive all that their labour
produces ? This question suggests the naturally
prior one : What is meant when we affirm that
all that labour produces should belong to those
whose labour it is ? And obviously tliis latter
question may be answered in two ways. For,
labour may either be credited with jDroducing all
that it is the direct factor of producing — all that it
seems to immediate outward sense to produce ; or,
it may be granted that labour is so dependent on
and aided by other factors of production that its
real produce is less than its apparent produce, and
it is only entitled fully to receive the former.
The first meaning is the only one which is either
clear or definite. It is also the only one which
admits of any socialistic application. Let us, there-
fore, realise what it implies.

Houses are things produced by labour. Here,
let us say, is a house worth five thousand pounds.
Apparently it is wholly the product of the labour
expended on it ; directly it is exactly in every
respect what that labour has made it to be. If,
then, the right under consideration, understood as
indicated, be a real right, the house itself is the
natural and just reward of the labours of those
engaged in the building of it, and they have been
defrauded unless they have received either the
house itself, or its full equivalent — i.e., as much
in wages as would purchase the house.

The claim which the right alleged, thus under-
stood, would confer is certainly not one that can
be charged with obscurity or vagueness. It is



SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 419

beautifully clear and definite. But it is none the
less a very extraordinary one. It is so exorbitant
that workmen, by insisting on it, would ruin instead
of enriching themselves. Were those whose occupa-
tion it is to build houses to claim to be the
proprietors of the houses which they built nobody
would employ them. The trade of building houses
would cease to exist. Every man would be com-
pelled to build his own house or to do without
one.

In existinP" social conditions the claim is also
manifestly unjust. Labour divorced from land and
capital cannot be entitled to receive the whole pro-
duce. Before the workmen who make a house can
claim with any appearance of justice to have earned
it by making it, the ground on which it stands, the
materials of which it is composed, the capital ex-
pended on their maintenance when engaged on it,
and everything else required to attain the result
reached, must have been their own. But none of these
conditions are fulfilled, or can be fulfilled, so long as
the old order based on the individual appropriation
of land and capital endures.

True, Socialists maintain that the conditions ouofht
to be fulfilled ; that land and other national agents
should be free to all ; that capital should bear no
interest or profit ; and, in short, that every institution
and arrangement which prevents the labourer from
receiving the full produce of his labour shall be done
away with. But even were this proved it would not
in the least follow that the abstractions from the
produce of labour referred to are not morally de-



420 SOCIALISxM

iiKindt'd in society as actually constituted ; all that
would be made out is that it is a duty to endeavour
so to reconstitute society that there will be no
warrant for such abstractions, and that the claims ot
perfect or ideal justice in regard to the remuneration
of labour should be satisfied. Until, however, the
revolution effecting such reconstruction has been
accomplished in a just way the rights inseparable
from the actual constitution of society cannot justly
be disregarded.

I do not admit, of course, that Socialists have
shown that there is any ethical necessity for such a
reconstitution of society as would secure to labour
alone all that is produced. In previous chapters (iv.-
vii. ) I have argued to the contrary, and endeavoured
to point out the futility of their reasons for repre-
senting private property in land and capital, rent,
interest, and profits as essentially unjust.

Nor do I grant that even were society organised
on collectivist principles labour would or could be
put in possession of the whole produce. There must
still be abstractions therefrom of the same nature as
those which are now made, although they might,
perhaps, be called by different names. That they
would be less in proportion to the whole produce
than at present is very doubtful.

Tliore has never yet been delineated an ideal of
society which would, if realised, secure to labour all
that Socialists promise it. The ideal of Social
Democracy could, it is obvious, only be carried out
by a system of officialism not likely to be less expen-
sive and burdensome than landlordism or capitalism.



SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 421

No social state, indeed, is conceivable in which the
so-called right of labour to the entire produce can
be satisfied. Wherever there are social ties and
obligations men must give as well as get, pay for
assistance afforded as well as be paid for services
rendered. The only state of human existence in
which labour can be reasonably expected to get the
entire produce is a non-social state. A man has only
to renounce all social advantages, to go where the
bounties of nature are still unappropriated and to
employ in his labour his own resources and instru-
ments, skill and strength, and he will not only
deserve but actually get all that he produces. Yet
what he gets will most probably be much less than
he might have got in the social state, notwithstand-
ing its inevitable burdens.

If labour be allowed to be only one of the factors
of production, and all that it produces only a part of
what is produced, the right of labour to all that it
produces can, of course, only mean a right to such
part of what is produced as may be its due, as may
be reasonable and just. The right thus understood
cannot be denied, but neither is it worth discussing.
What is it that is due, reasonable, just ? We are
left to find that out ; and no one has yet discovered,
or is likely to discover, that what is due to labour is
any definite proportion or invariable quantity of the
total produce of the work done in any occupation or
trade, community or nation.

We have now seen the defectiveness of the
socialistic idea of justice, and how it has given rise



422 SOCIALISM

to demands for fictitious rights. It has still to be
added, however, that socialistic teachers have been
jDarticularly chargeable with the error of dwelling
too exclusively on rights and insisting too little on
duties. All who are ambitious of being party
leaders are sure to be tempted thus to err, seeing
that all classes of men with class aims, with party
interests, prefer hearing of their rights to being re-
minded of their duties. Working men will hear you
gladly if you expatiate on their rights and the duties
of their employers. Employers will admire your good
sense if you defend their rights and dwell on the
duties of the employed. To teach to rich and poor,
employers and employed, to all classes of men alike,
the obligations of duty first, and their rights next,
and as arising from the discharge of their duties,
is very far from being the shortest or the easiest
path to popularity or to any of the ends which the
demagogue seeks. But it is the only one which
will be pursued by those who aim solely and
unselfishly either at the private or the public good
of men.

Rights, indeed, are precious and sacred. Often
when we might forego them were they merely our
own, we are in duty bound to assert and vindicate
them because they are also those of others. In the
course of the struggle for "rights" great and in-
dubitable services have been rendered to mankind.
Nevertheless, the alone properly supreme and guid-
ing idea of life, whether personal or social, is not
tliat of right but of duty. Only the man whose
ruling conviction is that of duty can be morally



SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 423

strong, self-consistent, and noble ; can control his
own spirit, conquer the world, sacrifice himself for
others, and in all relations act as becomes a beinof
in whose nature there is so much that is spiritual
and divine. Only a nation pervaded by a sense of
the supremacy of duty, and by that respect for
divine law, and that recognition of the claims of
self-denial and self-sacrifice for others, for ideal ends,
and for great causes, which are involved in the
sense of duty, can be one in which class properly
co-operates with class for the good of the whole, in
which individual and sectional interests apparently
conflicting are successfully harmonised, and in which
the citizens, notwithstanding all natural inequalities
and all diversities of position and circumstance, form
a true brotherhood.

Tell men only of their rights ; tell them only that
others are wronging them out of their rights to
liberty, to property, to power, to enjoyment, and
that they must assert and secure their rights ;
and you appeal, indeed, in some measure to their
conscience, their sense of justice, but you ajDpeal
as much or more to their selfishness, hate, envy,
jealousy ; and if you infuse into them a certain
strength to cast down and pull to pieces much
which may deserve demolition, you render them
unlikely to stop where they ought in the work of
destruction, and utterly unfit them for the still
more needed work of construction. Hence all revo-
lutions which have been eflected by men prejudiced
and excited through such teaching have been, even
when essentially just, disgraced by shameful ex-



424 SOCIALISM

cesses, and only very partially, if at all, successful.
Those who have gained rights which they have been
taught to think of as advantages, but not as
responsibilities, always abuse them. No society
in which men who have been thus perverted and
misled are in the majority, no society in which the
sense of duty does not prevail, can fail to be one
in which class is at constant war with class ; can
enjoy peace, security, or prosperity.

This truth has found its worthiest prophet and
apostle in Joseph Mazzini ; and to his writings, and
especially to his work " On the Duties of Man," I
refer such of my readers as desire fully to realise its
significance. He rightly traced to disregard of it
much of the moral weakness and disorcranisation of
that Democracy for the advance and triumph of
which he so unselfishly laboured ; and he justly held
the one-sided moral teaching of the revolutionary
and socialistic propagandists of the age to have
been largely responsible for that disregard itself
There has certainly been no improvement in this
respect since he wrote. The Socialism of to-day is
more radical and revolutionary in its proposals, more
intent on class and party advantages, and more averse
to dwell on the supreme and universal claims of duty
than were the forms in which Socialism appeared in
the earlier half of the century. The spirit which
animates Social Democracy is the very spirit which
Mazzini was so anxious to see cast out of Democracy.
The Mazzinian and the Marxian ideals of democratic
society are moral contraries. Immense issues
depend on which of them may prevail.



SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 425

While the common error of Socialists is insisting
on rights in a way inconsistent with the primacy of
duty, the error of uprooting and annulling rights
through affirming a false conception of duty is
not unknown among them. Mr. Gronlund, for
example, conceiving of the State as strictly an
organism, and actually related to its citizens as a
tree to its cells, denies that individuals have any
natural rights, and affirms that the State gives
them whatever rights they have. " This conception
of the State as an organism," he says, " consigns
* the rights of man ' to obscurity and puts duty in
the foreground." * And certainly it consigns the
rights of man to obscurity ; entirely robs man of his
essential and inalienable rights as a moral agent.
But this is done not by putting duty in the fore-
ground ; it is done by obliterating duty, and sub-
stituting for it servility. What is got rid of is
morality altogether, alike in the form of duty and
of rio'ht.

Other Socialists reach a similar result by investing
the will of the majority with absolute authority in
the moral sphere. It is interesting to note, how-
ever, that those who prefer this course consider that
the will of the majority is only to be thus revered as
the source and law of right and duty when it has
adopted a socialistic creed. At present " the will
of the majority " is only a bourgeois idol, which
may properly be treated with contempt, but in the
enlightened era which is approaching it will be a

* " The Co-operative Commonwealtli," p. 84.



426 SOCIALISM

socialist deity, and its decrees must be reverently
received and implicitly obeyed. This is the social-
istic form of the cultus of the majority. In every
form, however, any such cultus is obviously incom-
patible with a true view of the nature and claims
of morality.



CHAPTER XI.

SOCIALISM AND RELIGION.

How is Socialism related to Eeligion ? To this
question different and conflicting answers have been
Pfiven.

I. Some have held that there is no essential
relation, no natural or necessary connection, be-
tween them. It cannot be denied that they may
act, and really do act, on each other ; but it may
be denied that they ever so act otherwise than
casually, or, in other words, owing to the influence
of circumstances, the conjuncture of contingencies.
And this denial has been made. Socialism, accord-
ing to those to whom I refer, is occupied only with
economic interests, and has properly nothing to do
with religious concerns, while Religion is a "private
aftair," one intrinsically spiritual and individual.
A Socialist may be of any religion or of no religion.
In discussing Socialism it is irrelevant to refer to
Relisi'ion. To attach any importance to impu-
tations of materialism, intidelity, and atheism
ao-ainst Socialists is " bad form " ; it is to have
recourse to an unfair and happily almost obsolete
style of controversy. "We have found by the
experience of centuries that these weapons are
the most readily turned against the best and wisest



428 SOCIALISM

men, and we no longer employ them in our political
and economic warfare." *

There must be admitted to be some truth in this
view. The economic and the religious questions
in Socialism are not only separable but ought to
be so far separated. Socialists are fully entitled
to expect that their economic hypotheses will be
judged of, in the first place at least, on economic
grounds, apart from religious and all other non-
economic considerations. The critic of Socialism
may be justified in confining his attention to its
economic doctrine. No person is bound to treat of
any subject exhaustively. That there are religious
as well as non-religious Socialists is undeniable ;
and to impute falsely materialism, infidelity, or
atheism to any man, wise or foolish, good or bad,
is obviously unjustifiable. The experience of cen-
turies has undoubtedly shown it to be grievous
error to drag Religion irrelevantly into any dis-
cussion, or so to make use of it as to embitter
and degrade any discussion.

Still the view in question is, in the main,
erroneous. There is not enough of truth in it to
have gained it much acceptance. Of all views on
the relation of Religion to Socialism, it is the one
which fewest people have been found to adopt.
And Socialists have as generally and decidedly
rejected it as non-Socialists. The religious among
them are almost unanimous in holding that



* Mr. Bosanquet in the Preface to his translation of Schiiiile'ri " Im-
possibility of Social Democracy."



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 429

Religion, as they conceive of it, is necessary to
the completeness and efficiency of their Socialism.
The non-religious among them, with rare exceptions,
look on Religion as naturally antagonistic to the
growth and triumph of all genuine Socialism.

It would have been strange if it had been other-
wise. Socialism is not pure science, not mere
theory ; it is a doctrine or scheme of social organisa-
tion. Can any such doctrine or scheme ignore
or exclude consideration of Religion, and yet not
be seriously defective ? Surely not. Social organi-
sation is not merely economic organisation ; it
implies the harmonising of all the factors, insti-
tutions, and interests of society, political, moral,
and religious, as well as economic. Economic
organisation, indeed, can no more be successfully
effected if dissevered from religion than if dissociated
from morality or political action. The life of a
society, like the life of an individual, is a whole,
and all the elements, organs, and functions which
such life implies are so intimately interconnected
that each one influences and is influenced by all
the others. They cannot be separated without
injury or destruction to themselves and the entire
organism. Dissection is only practicable on the dead.
All attempts at mere economic organisation must
necessarily be unsuccessful ; and so far from its
beinsf irrelevant in discussing- Socialism to refer to
Religion any examination of Socialism which does
not extend to its religious bearings must be in-
complete. The experience of centuries should indeed
warn us to be on our guard against recklessly



430 SOCIALISM

charging- economic or political systems with atheism,
but it should no less warn us against fancying that
such systems may ally themselves with atheism or
irreligion without loss of social virtue or value.

2. Another view of the relation between Social-
ism and Religion is that it is one of identity ; that
they are substantially the same thing ; that
Socialism in its perfection is Religion at its best.

This is a view which has been widely entertained.
The Socialism which appeared in France in the
early part of the present century, although it
originated in the irreligious materialism and revo-
lutionary radicalism of the latter part of the pre-
ceding century, came gradually after the Restora-
tion to assume an anti-revolutionary and com-
paratively religious character and tone. Saint-
Simon closed his career with presenting his social
doctrine as a New Christianity, the result and
goal of the entire past religious develo})ment of
humanity ; and on this New Christianity Enfantin
and his adherents sought to raise the New Church
of the future. Fourier, Considerant, Cabet, and
Leroux all felt that society could not be held to-
gether, reinvigorated, and reorganised by mere
reasoning and science, but required also the force
and life which faith and religion can alone impart.
At the same time, like Saint-Simon, they regarded
historical Christianity as effete and sought to
discover substitutes for it capable of satisfying both
the natural and the spiritual wants of man. The
great aim of Auguste Comte from 1847 until his



Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 31 of 38)